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Travel and Leisure

29Apr

"A tale of two maritime museums"

First appeared
Saturday, 26 April 2008

 

My idea was a simple one: to spend a day visiting naval and maritime museums on opposite ends of the Cape peninsula; and to do it using public transport or going on foot, eschewing the carbon-guzzling preferences of most well-heeled South Africans exploring their own country.

Suffice it to say that the day-trip took longer than I thought it would.

31Mar

Swiss Food: More than just Cheese and Chocolate

First appeared
Saturday, 29 March 2008

“The Swiss,” I was declaiming to anyone at the table who would listen (which was no-one, as the conversation had long since moved on from the question I was now attempting to answer), “are not only neutral when it comes to foreign policy; they also practice a careful diplomacy with internal matters. Because of the clash of German, French and Italian languages and cultures in Switzerland, along with the famously independent-minded cantons within the federal government system, it’s difficult to please everyone when it comes to making decisions. And this penchant for political correctness explains why the Swiss continue to use the Latin name for their country, Confederatio Helvetica, as a basis for abbreviation. So Swiss cars have bumper stickers displaying a large CH, Swiss website domains end in .ch, and – ”

“Actually, sir, that’s not really true,” our waiter interrupted. “We just like things that start with ‘ch’; you know, cheese, chocolate ...”

31Mar

Review: The Coastal Guide of South Africa

First appeared
Saturday, 29 March 2008

The Coastal Guide of South Africa (Jacana)
Text by Lynne Matthews, artwork by Sally MacLarty and Penny Noall

“They bite us, and sting us, and even try to kill us,” complains irrepressible Scottish comedian Billy Connolly, “but when are we going to learn that THE THINGS THAT LIVE IN THE SEA DON’T LIKE US?”

His point (mixed in with a few choice Anglo-Saxon four letter words) is well made. But that’s not the end of the matter, because whatever the creatures of the sea may think of us, it’s clear that we like them: we like to look at them, and swim with them, and hunt them, and eat them.

18Feb

Crazy Japan: An Irreverent Reminiscence

First appeared
Saturday, 16 February 2008

Our first few days and nights in Japan left us feeling as if we were part of a botched high-school science experiment: stuck in a vacuum, a half-world. We had arrived in Nagoya (Japan’s Port Elizabeth, only with no beaches, triple the number of people and ten times the amount of concrete), where we would be staying for a year, teaching English and earning Yen.

11Feb

Switzerland's Historic Hotels

First appeared
TRAVEL IDEAS MAGAZINE
Tuesday, 01 April 2008

Jaded business travellers are fond of complaining that, inside and out, one hotel is just the same as another. Indeed, although accommodation is an important consideration for most people when they’re planning a holiday, once they’ve decided on a destination and a budget, the only criteria they apply are a clean, comfortable room (a hearty breakfast is a bonus) and a not-too-inconvenient location. Certainly, it’s unusual for someone to look for a special hotel first and only afterwards to plan their itinerary. But then the Swiss have always been a bit different. And, as the members of the Swiss Historic Hotels association are keen to show, exploring the history, culture, food, architecture and natural beauty of a particular region needn’t end when you step inside your hotel. In fact, it can begin there.

12Dec

Grahamstown: Saints, Warriors, Architects and Writers

First appeared
Saturday, 08 December 2007

If you’ve visited Grahamstown before, the chances are you were there for the National Arts Festival – for a few dirty days of hedonism (some overindulge in theatre, dance and music, others in beer, wine and spirits, but the effect is often the same) in a windswept, rained-out, freezing cold, nondescript dorp. Well, I’m sorry to say, in that case you haven’t been to Grahamstown.

22Oct

The Cederberg Rocks ...

First appeared
Saturday, 20 October 2007

A few years ago, I told a friend that I was going to the Cederberg for the first time. He gave a curt reply: “I hope you like rocks.”

Well, I do like rocks, but – as I know from spending a lot of time as an undergraduate around pick-wielding geology students – I don’t like them that much. So when my wife and I turned off the N7 midway between Clanwilliam and Citrusdal and headed east on the kind of gravel road that Japanese automotive engineers definitely didn’t have in mind when they designed the Toyota Tazz, we weren’t quite sure what to expect.

06Aug

The World That Made Mandela: Part One

First appeared
Saturday, 04 August 2007

THE WORLD THAT MADE MANDELA by Luli Callinicos (STE Publishers) 

As a rule, people don’t like to mix tourism and politics – after all, the former is primarily a leisure activity, while the latter is a daily source of frustration and even anxiety. At times, it can’t be helped, such as when global politics interferes with travel plans (ask anyone who booked a visit to the USA starting on September 12th 2001); at other times, it may add curiosity value to a destination (the same traveller might find it very interesting if he or she deferred the trip to coincide with next year’s American presidential elections). Generally, however, we like our holidays apolitical, thank you very much.

31Jul

Mpumalanga ... Mango style

First appeared
MANGO JUICE - Mango Airlines' in-flight magazine 
Sunday, 01 July 2007

Every time I’m in Mpumalanga, I get lost. The first time it happened, I could at least blame my parents. I was about ten years old, and we were hiking the “Loerie Trail” through dense pine and bluegum plantations (these are still around; unlike Capetonians, who are slowly but surely getting rid of all their alien vegetation, the good folk of Mpumalanga have kept most of theirs, allowing the abundant pine forests to blend into the landscape along with indigenous flora). Somehow we managed to skip one or two of the path markers – yellow loerie bird icons painted onto trees and rocks – and soon we were walking kringe in ‘n bos all of our own. Suffice it to say that, although the guidebooks describe the Loerie Trail as a gentle half-day hike, I know better.

16Jul

The KZN Midlands Meander

First appeared
Saturday, 14 July 2007

 

The map of the KwaZulu-Natal midlands is awash with neo-romantic place names – reminders of why this part of the world was once known as “the last outpost” of the British empire. Balgowan and Dargle call to mind the quieter corners of rural Britain. Fort Nottingham (named after the “Sherwood Forresters”, a colonial regiment from Nottinghamshire) is associated with the mythology of Robin Hood and his merry men. “Granny Mouse’s Country House” seems to come straight from the pages of a Beatrix Potter book, while “Toad Hall” is borrowed from The Wind in the Willows. The “Rose and Pig” and “Hedgehog and Otter” could be pubs in the Yorkshire Dales or the Cotswolds. St Ives and Tintagel (as in Cornwall and the Arthurian legend), Penny Lane (no prizes for guessing), Cranford, Hawklee, Oatesdale ... there are Anglophile country inns and cottages beyond the counting. Some natural attractions even have names with Celtic roots, none more so than Beinn Mheadhon, after the mountain in the Scottish Argyll. Little Kilgobbin nature reserve harks after an area in county Limerick, Ireland.

10Jul

Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur and Penang

First appeared
DIVERSIONS magazine
Sunday, 01 July 2007

For many visitors, Kuala Lumpur (KL) is a transit city. Those heading for Malaysia’s white-sand beaches and diving hotspots usually don’t want to spend much time in the capital. Likewise, although Air Malaysia’s reasonable prices make KL a useful starting- or ending-point for those joining the South-East Asian trail, backpackers are typically either en route to somewhere else or – bodies exhausted, wallets empty – eager to fly home. This is a pity, as KL has much to offer, and merits its own place on the destinations list of any would-be explorer with itchy feet to scratch.

18May

Fuji-san: the Case of the Disappearing Mountain

First appeared
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{mosimage}{mosimage}{mosimage}This article appeared in THE WEEKEND ARGUS Travel Supplement

5th November 2005

It had previously appeared on iafrica.com’s travel pages in August 2003.


A Japanese dictum warns: ‘Everyone should climb Mount Fuji once. Only a fool would do it twice.’ There are a few Japanese men and women who repeatedly subject themselves to the whims of their country’s most famous landmark – trudging up it from every angle, in each season, day and night – but nowadays most Japanese people aren’t remotely interested in hiking to the top of Fuji-san. It’s a mountain to be admired from a distance (through the window of a shinkansen bullet train, perhaps, or from the steamy luxury of an onsen hot-spring resort) but definitely not one to be climbed. 
18May

The Naked Truth About Japanese Men

First appeared
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{mosimage}{mosimage}{mosimage}This article appeared in THE WEEKEND ARGUS Travel Supplement

17th September 2005

It had previously appeared on iafrica.com’s travel pages in March 2004.


Nobel laureate JM Coetzee once described the Rugby World Cup as “an orgy of chauvinism”. His anti-macho sentiments were expressed in a 1995 article – following the successful Springbok campaign of that year – which was less concerned with sexism in sport than with the vague and contentious notions of “nationhood” and “national traditions”; so I would be interested to know how Coetzee would interpret the Naked Man Festival, a complex concoction of Japanese manhood and misunderstood culture. 

18May

Hiroshima and Miya-Jima: Pain and Paradise

First appeared
null

{mosimage}{mosimage}{mosimage}This article appeared on iafrica.com’s travel pages

October 2003 and again in August 2005

View online here


Even if your world history doesn’t stretch back to 1945, there is still every reason to visit Hiroshima. It is a beautiful, spacious modern city with a laid-back atmosphere. Admiring the crisscrossed network of trams (Hiroshima is the only city in Japan that still has a tram system), enjoying the smooth tones of a saxophone street quartet, or walking over the bridges that span the many tributaries of the Ota river delta on which the city is built, you might be tempted to say there is a European feel about the place. Hiroshima remains quintessentially Japanese, but there is no doubt that it is a world city. Since the horrific events surrounding the dropping of the first atomic bomb on 6th August, 1945, the city of Hiroshima has become vitally important to every single human being. 

18May

Baseball and Beckham: Sport in Japan

First appeared
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{mosimage}{mosimage}{mosimage}This article appeared on iafrica.com’s travel pages

September 2003

View online here


Across Japan, millions and millions of people are soon going to be very bored. Unfortunately for them, after about seven months of almost nightly games, baseball season is winding down. The Osaka-based Hanshin Tigers recently clinched the competitive Central League title or “pennant” - their first title in 20 years - prompting widespread celebrations. Following tradition, drunken hordes jumped into the river that flows through the heart of Osaka and made a noise so loud it was said you could hear it 50 kilometres away. Less dramatically, Daiei (actually the name of a department store - all the teams are known by the names of their sponsors) have almost cleaned up the Eastern league pennant.

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